Researching the theatre work of Marguerite Duras through practice

Marguerite DurasMy interest in the work of Marguerite Duras focuses on the play of disembodiment and corporeality in a cluster of Marguerite Duras's texts and performances, particularly focusing on Eden Cinema (first performed in 1992, first published in France 1977) India Song (first performed in1992, first published in France 1973) and Savannah Bay (first performed in 1982, published in 1982). Not easily categorised as novel, film, theatre or even symphonic poem, this body of texts occupies spaces between forms and genres, merging fiction and memory, destabilising reading with material performance and counterpointing live and mediated action and sound. Paralleling this hesitation between fictional modes and forms, the texts are characterised by an interplay of the embodied dead and the disembodied living. In all three texts theatrical 'vitality' is located in figures who, we are told, are dead or on the verge of death: Anne-Marie Stretter in India Song and the Mother in Eden Cinema and the grandmother on Savannah Bay. Their material bodies haunt the performance space, lingering in it rather than Savannah Bay performanceacting upon it, while their dynamic significance is evoked through a cacophony of voices and narrators, 'live' figures, albeit barely more than shades themselves, whose stories circulate around and animate the dead.

Duras is defined as a writer whose life is indecipherable, whose writing represents loss and negation, whose films embody death, non-appearance and lack and many of whose plays are regarded as non-theatrical and unperformable. India Song, Eden Cinema and Savannah Bay all take on a fluid dramatic form in which text, music, images, light, sound and voice are interwoven to create elusive memory plays, partly about the instability and intangibility of the past. Characters are tentative and only partially present ghosts who haunt the stage as they enact tales of loss and separation. All three plays centre on stories told through half-recalled memories of the living, memories which fade almost as soon as they are conjured.

Eden Cinema performanceFollowing some initial research and publication on India Song, my work on Duras explores ways of staging her work using multimedial forms of performance to create performances whose location is fixed with no degree of certainty; where the meaning of theatrical space is continuously renegotiated; where at any point theatrical time is diffused across two or more historical moments; where characters inhabit spaces no more than tentatively.

Related publications

See: Taylor, L, 'Sound Tracks: the Soundscapes of India Song' Theatre Research International, Vol 23, No 3, Autumn 1998 pp. 205-14

Taylor, L, 'Performed Disembodiment in Duras's Fictional Spaces' in Body. Space, Technology Journal, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2007


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